Almost half of Europe’s airports back to pre-pandemic passenger levels

Passenger traffic kept recovering in the first quarter across the European airport network, as volumes increased by +49% compared to the same period last year. The growth somewhat slowed down in March at +34%, reflecting the fact that travel restrictions were being lifted at that time last year, and passenger traffic had started recovering as a result. 
Passenger traffic in the first quarter was just -10.6% below pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) levels. International passenger traffic keeps driving the recovery and getting closer to pre-pandemic levels (-9%), while domestic passenger traffic is lagging behind (-18.5%). This is pointing to structural market changes resulting from factors including changing consumer behaviours and modal shifts.  
By the end of March, 45% of Europe’s airports had recovered or exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes – up from 40% in February.


EU+ airports1 saw passenger volumes increasing by +53.4% in the first quartercompared to the same period last year.
When compared to pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) levels, EU+ passenger traffic stood at -11.5% – but with significant divergences in performance.  This reflects a recovery still predominantly driven by leisure and blended demand as well as selective capacity expansion from Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers, along with the impact of the war in Ukraine:

  • Airports in Portugal (+15.2%), Croatia (+12.1%), Luxembourg (+9.1%) and Cyprus (+8.4%) well exceeded their pre-pandemic volumes. 
  • Conversely, airports in Slovakia (-44.9%), Slovenia (-41.2%), Germany (-32.2%), the Czech Republic (-29.7%) and Finland (-26.2%) remained the farthest from a full recovery.
  • Amongst the largest EU+ markets – and aside from the underperformance of German airports (also resulting from industrial action) – airports in Spain (+1.7%) posted the best results followed by those in Italy (-6.8%), France (-11.4%) and the UK (-12.9%).

At airports in the rest of Europe2, passenger traffic grew by +30.2% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.
When compared to pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) levels, passenger traffic in the rest of Europe outperformed the EU+ market at just -6%.
While airports in Ukraine (-100%) have lost all of their passenger traffic for more than a year, those in Russia (+4.5%) managed to remain above their pre-pandemic volumes in the first quarter as passenger demand has shifted to domestic and non-EU+ markets. This boosted the performance of airports in Uzbekistan (+112.5%), Kazakhstan (+55.1), Armenia (+37.6%) and Serbia (+26.3%).
Meanwhile airports in the major market of Turkey (-4.9%) came close to a full recovery and those in Albania (+91%) achieved impressive growth thanks to the capacity deployed by Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers.


Passenger traffic at the Majors (top 5 European airports in 20193) grew by +52.4% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. Volumes remained -11.2% below pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) levels due to lower hub carrier capacity deployment and the impact of the re-opening of China still limited.
Amongst the current top 5 European airports4 Istanbul (+5.9%) and Madrid (0%) were the only ones having recovered their pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) levels.
London-Heathrow (-5.7%) re-established itself as the busiest European airport, followed by Istanbul, Paris-CDG (-13.2%), Madrid and Amsterdam-Schiphol (-20.8%).  
The German hubs – Frankfurt (-23.3%) and Munich (-30.1%) significantly under-performed their peers, with lower Low-Cost Carrier penetration and strikes being contributing factors.
Meanwhile, the resilience of leisure demand to inflationary pressures and higher air fares and the reliance on Low-Cost Airline traffic resulted in a number of other largeand capital airports exceeding their pre-pandemic volumes in the first quarter: Lisbon (+13.9%), Tel Aviv (+14%), Palma de Mallorca (+2.4%), Athens (+2.3%) and Dublin (+1.9%).  

These same recovery patterns and market dynamics were to the continued benefit of a number of large Ultra-Low-Cost airport bases: Beauvais (+34.3%), Bergamo (+19.7%) and Charleroi (+16%).
They also benefitted regional and smaller airports6 where passenger traffic in the first quarter was just –4.5% below their pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) volumes. Those serving popular tourist destination and/or relying on Low-Cost Carriers posted impressive performances, including: Kutaisi (+61.4%), Varna (+59.1%), Madeira(+43.5%), Asturias (+36.4%), Memmingen (+40.3%), Trapani (+31.9%) Rotterdam(+26.8%), Lodz (+36.7%), Paphos (+29.1%) and Chania (+20.6%)

Freight traffic across the European airport network decreased by -8.7% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year – and stood at -7.9% compared to its pre-pandemic (Q1 2019) level.
Frankfurt (-13% compared to Q1 2019) was the busiest European airport for freight traffic, followed by Leipzig (+16%), Amsterdam-Schiphol (-13%), London-Heathrow(-22%) and Istanbul (-28%).
Aircraft movements increased by +24% in the first quarter across the European airport network compared to the same period last year, with airports in the EU+ markets at +25.1% and those in the rest of Europe at +18.2%.

During the first quarter, airports welcoming more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), airports welcoming between 10 and 25 million passengers (Group 2), airports welcoming between 5 and 10 million passengers (Group 3) and airports welcoming less than 5 million passengers per year (Group 4) reported an average adjustment of -12.2%, -11%, -4.3% and -6.2%, as compared to pre-pandemic traffic levels (Q1 2019).
The airports that reported the highest increases in passenger traffic for Q1 2023 when compared with Q1 2019 are as follows:
GROUP 1:     Lisbon (+13.9%), Istanbul IST (+5.9%), Palma de Mallorca (+2.4%), Athens (+2.3%) and Dublin (+1.9%). 
GROUP 2:     Milan BGY (+19.7%), Tel Aviv (+14%), Catania (+12.6%), Porto (+12.1%)and Naples (+9.2%). 
GROUP 3:     Sochi (+79.6%), Almaty (+55.1%), Belgrade (+26.9%), Charleroi (+16.0%) and Krakow (+15.7%).
GROUP 4:     Tirana (+91%), Varna (+59.1%), Madeira (+43.5%), Memmingen (+40.3%) and Yerevan-Zvartnots (+37.6%). 

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